Mixing Woodworking & CNC Machining

One of the benefits of having hand tools, woodworking machinery is that when embarking on a small project you pretty much have everything you’re likely to need. In previous blogs I’ve written about making all sorts of things by hand but one of my frustrations is my accuracy of cutting or chiselling wood. I always have good intentions but the finished results never match my expectation.

Hence getting the CNC machine.

Now I have the means to produce accurate pieces with wood and a some modelling software. Knocking up a sign or box using a pre-programmed design is simple and the results always impress. There are limitations of course, as the machine bed has a maximum capacity of two feet square but for most builds that is sufficient.

Whilst we were on a break in Devon last year, I spotted a wine rack in a shop in Kingsbridge and thought it would be a good project to make at home. I knew I had some oak timber that would be perfect but realised that the rack would need lots of joints and they would need to be neatly done or else it would look a mess.

Firstly I worked out how many rails would be required and went about planing them down to the size I thought would be suitable. I then worked out how to make the tenons and mortise using the CNC and also created a jig to ensure I could get repeatable cuts.

The CNC makes light work this type of job and I was please that the rails connected nice and snug and straight. I used a square to ensure the frames glued up true and left it overnight to ensure it dried well.

Assembling the frame to the rails was then fairly easy and soon it was starting to look like a rack. Once again I glued it up and left it overnight. The next day I rubbed down the frame with some sandpaper and added some rubber feet to the legs to finish it off, leaving it a natural finish rather than finish with any wax or varnish.

The wine rack is now situated in one of our downstairs rooms and fully stocked following a delivery of twelve bottles of wine that my team bought for me at Christmas 🙂

Making signs

One of the cool things about a CNC machine is the ease at which you can produce really good looking signs out of pretty much any material. One of my ‘commissions’ was to make a sign for a guy in Scotland who contacted me on Instagram. He had seen I’d made a house sign and asked whether I could make one to hang above his hot tub. I wasn’t intending to charge him other than the postage so in order to keep costs down I used some old pallet wood I’d reclaimed. The results came out pretty well and he loved it.

Another request came closer to hand, when Tina mentioned that one of her colleagues at work asked whether I could make two bedroom door signs for her young daughters. My usual process is to firstly go and do a Google images search to get some inspiration on what the signs could look like but in this case I went straight into designing using the Vectrix VCarve software.

But having checked with Tina, we didn’t feel they were ‘girly’ enough, so went back to Google and found a sign I thought could work. A quick design in the CNC software and I then got to work cutting the signs and the accompanying butterflies and flowers.

In the end I added some rope for hangers and gave both a coat of varnish. And the girls absolutely loved them, even to the point that the younger one Evelyn just kept walking around carrying it like a handbag not wanting it to be hung on her door.

Another request came from a difference work colleague of Tina’s, this time asking for a sign to give to her friend who had recently got engaged. Again I knocked up a mock-up, which was accepted and soon the CNC had produced the sign. Again they loved it.

One of the reasons for buying a CNC was the fact that the output is so exact, crisp and clean and so far it’s proving that way.

I’m happy just making these as for me the enjoyment is the creation and reward of seeing something produced that looks good and the recipient is pleased with. Perhaps one day when I’ve retired I can set up my own business selling these for profit but I’m really not sure I’d get the same pleasure in making them as I do at the moment.

Workshop Update

The enforced national lockdown back in March last year began just before we were about to travel to Jersey to see our daughter, so instead I had the added bonus of a week off spent in my workshop.

Having managed to get to grips with my newly purchased CNC machine by making some signs, clocks and a crib board for my dad, I was keen to explore new things to make. I’d also ordered a pallet of hardwood from eBay, which would give me plenty of material to use as well.

Firstly, I wanted to try to produce a brass stamp on the CNC which seemed quite a cool thing to try to make. I had already ordered some brass blocks from eBay and so set about designing the stamps on the Vectrix software. The plan was to make a stamp that could be used for embossing my woodwork pieces; my very own makers mark. What I didn’t realise was that cutting metal, even a soft metal like brass, isn’t as easy as you think. My first attempt caused the router bit to break but once I’d sussed out the correct feed and speeds needed I managed to produce a pretty functional stamp.

I then thought I’d have a go at making some cutting boards, again out of left over oak worktop, but this time I wanted to try engraving onto them using the CNC. I made three different sized boards and a stand and then used the CNC to produce some pretty good looking boards.

Having no use for the boards I stored them away after first sharing photos on Instagram and shortly after an ex-colleague reached out for me to see if I would make her a set. As they were not required at home, I duly posted them to her and are now regularly used in her kitchen. Another project successfully completed.

Over the next few months my CNC output increased as I grew more confident in designing and creating new things. I even managed to get a couple of commissions from a chap in Scotland having seen my photos on social media.

Firstly he asked if I could make him a sign for his newly installed hot tub and then a sign for a work colleague. He loved them, especially as I only charged him for the postage.

Ideas were coming thick and fast by the time we came out of lockdown, not before dabbling in making some keyring, nick-nack trays and boxes, more signs and BBQ trays.

As the workshop warmed up in the summer, my activity slowed as the temperatures got unbearable but I still managed to knock out some football signs for friends and family.

In my next blog post I’ll run through some other projects including making beer bottle openers, signs for the garden, a box for a baby and a clock for my dad for Fathers Day.

I’m back…for a while anyhow

Can it really be 3 years since I last added a post…wow!

Having had a bit of a break from blogging, I’ve decided it’s time to get back online again and start covering my woodworking exploits from the past 12 months as well document my impending dive into the world Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machining as I’ve ordered a WorkBee from Ooznest, which arrives (in kit form) next month.

Ooznest WorkBee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve read so much documentation, watched loads of YouTube videos and done lots of CAD tutorials, I’m certain it was be a very straightforward hobby…not!

My next blog will cover the journey of turning our former storage/dumping ground of a  double garage into a state of the art, 21st century, woodworkers dream of a workshop and post some of the projects I’ve completed so far.

I’ll then cover the trials and tribulations in getting the WorkBee up and running and hopefully showoff some of the things I subsequently make (assuming I do get the machine working of course).

So what this space for more updates (and I promise it will be sooner than in 3 years!)